One more father learns that he never understood his daughter, and not as much of the world as he thought either.
This is the first story of Jerry Engler's book, A Heartland Voice: Just Folks Two, selected because it was a favorite of persons who worked with him.
Those involved in its publication have agreed to allow it to appear here as a promotional. It is copyrighted, all rights reserved.
Some like it hot, but not Julius
The year of the Victoria's birth was hand-carved in the top of the great stone edifice of the building that ran for a third of a block along the Main
Street of the Kaw Town--1893, a year so obscure in Kaw Town history that details of a movie shown at the Victoria five years before were better remembered.
It hadn't been the Victoria Movie Theater then. It was the Victoria Playhouse, a fine stage setting for plays and vaudeville. Back then, horse-drawn hackneys and carriages were employed to bring visitors up from the railroad depot who had come from as far away as what was to become the major city in the area. It was worth an unhandy railroad trip to these early-day commuters to come to the finest playhouse in the region.
Perhaps, if you were like O.B. Goodfellow, the old attorney, you could sit on the steps under the movie marquee where once a broad porch roof had covered the walk. You could close your eyes in day dream, and hear the mud-slopping horse hooves in the years far before the sputtering auto exhausts, drawing their loads of happy people to restaurants in the hours before the show.
Most people didn't care to listen like O.B., least of all Julius Berton, who waited back in another year on his wife, Claudia, and his daughter, Kathy, to see the new movie, "Some Like it Hot," with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Joe E. Brown.
"What year was that?" O.B. asked his secretary, sticking the paperback western he had been reading behind him so she wouldn't know he hadn't been working.
"You remember that movie? What year was that? I just about handled a divorce case that year instead of a family healing. Julius Berton and his wife,Claudia--the old boy was too frail for a daughter like Kathy. I tell you, a lawyer hadn't ought to have to dance around like that. I don't know why I never just settled for handling cases instead of helping people with their ministrations. Could it have been 50 years ago that beauty like Marilyn was in Hollywood?"
The secretary didn't know. She was trying to finish by 5, so she could go home. Well, O.B. decided, not many care when it was because it's slipping down the road of obscurity just like the birth of the Victoria did.
Possibly Julius Berton remembers because he had a fear the title somehow applied to the aspirations of Kathy. He was having his same old problems with Kathy. She was just too good looking. Plus, she knew it, and she was an extrovert. Secretly, he wished she had been born like him, with just a touch of homeliness so he could have controlled her.
People noticed her. They had stuck her out in front of the other children to sing at school programs. Then, when she grew, they put her out front as a cheerleader--blond, curvy, and doing those moves while he waited in the stands wanting to put a blanket over her. He knew what young men were capable of thinking.
"Kathy, Kathy," he would tell her, "A young lady your age doesn't need to go out much. I know your mother and I have decided to trust you with your judgments. But wouldn't you like to stay home more? We could play board games."
"I'll catch you later, Pop," she would say. "That would be nice to spend time together."
They had played more games. But she still went out more. He had been able to tell a couple of the young men who came by when she was younger that they just weren't wanted. Kathy even respected his choices of boys for a little while.
But now that she was 20, he seemed to have lost most of his control. His wife and his daughter had taken to ignoring him or scolding him if he said too much about what she was doing.
Years later, watching his grandchildren grow up, he would remember it all over and over again as he began his own slide down the road into the future, where he and the Victoria would share a little-known history.
But now, whatever the year was of "Some Like it Hot," Julius Berton waited in it on his personal journey, steeling his determination that his daughter would not spend her life with Harris McKelomb.
Harris and his brother, Marvin, were nearly identical-looking sandy-haired slender young men just over six feet tall. They had lumpy looking, long-nosed angular heads. If Kathy had to be good looking, she could at least have a good-looking mate.
It annoyed Julius that they wore black leather motorcycle jackets, emblems of tough, seedy, low-lifers. They also laughed too much when situations didn't warrant, and Julius resented the way Harris would attempt to put possessive hands on Kathy. She would not, not ever, he repeated to himself, let her interest in Harris McKelomb go beyond what it was, and he would do everything he could to stop that, too.
When Harris called, and Julius was the one who took the call, he sometimes just hung the phone back up, forcing the young man to call again at which time he told him "Kathy is busy now."
The boy couldn't be bright, could he? Kathy said he was bright, but, good Lord, Harris sacked grain at a feed store. Julius hadn't seen him show much interest in doing anything with the money there but running around in the summers. True, he had been going to the state college for three years, but Julius still was sure Harris would flunk out.
"Daddy," Kathy said, "Give Harris a break. Why do you have to talk him down? He does really well in chemistry, and down at the feed store he can do the math faster in his head than the calculator can."
When Harris gave Kathy an engagement ring, Julius put his foot down. "No, absolutely not. You're not going to marry that boy. I forbid you to wear that ring. Give it back to him."
A father was a father even if the women in the family glared at him, and were sullen.
At the drugstore where Julius stocked the counters, there was a good-looking new young pharmacist with curly red hair and big freckles, Magnus Feroth. He invited Magnus to dinner weekly in hopes Kathy might develop an interest.
He liked the way Magnus always looked him in the eye from the depths of his own curiously intelligent turquoise blue-green eyes, and said, "I'd be pleased to come over, sir."
Yes, people respected Magnus Feroth for him being such a young person. They trusted him.
The fears Julius had were reinforced because looking at the posters on the Victoria, he was realizing that his little girl looked like Marilyn Monroe--blond, shapely with curves so profound that he was becoming certain that even more men fully as undesirable as Harris McKelomb must be noticing her.
Claudia would have scolded him if she had known he was wondering one more time, "Lord, why couldn't Kathy have been just a little bit more homely?"
Claudia was always scolding him for not letting Kathy be. But look at the girl, bubbling over with life and beauty--suppose she didn't take care of herself.?
Back in the forgotten history, the Victoria had been considered beautiful by its builders, too. That led to some of its peculiarities later when they considered it the time to convert it to a movie house.
The most money at its founding had been spent on the front stone work that greeted visitors with its inlaid cherubim blowing trumpets. In the grand auditorium there were more cherubim flanked by a few white-marble looking Greek god statues, marbled center support columns and paintings of forest and deer on the walls.
The front walk-in area had been limited to a coat room, lounge benches in the hallway, and a small concessions counter with barely enough room for the attendants to work behind it. Much
of the coat room had gone to the wayside to furnish stairway and supports for a projection room.
Behind the stage, and under the stage, were storage areas and changing areas for the performers. At each end of the stage was a small room for a staging area and office space. The upstairs lounge area with a wall seperating it from the theater seats was a glorified hallway.
That made a problem when it came time to plumb the Victoria. The times and the technology demanded indoor toilets. The most obvious place to locate them was in the tiny staging and office rooms at either side of the stage. So, they boarded them in from the rest of the area under the stage, and put in the toilet stools, sinks and water pipes.
Generations of Kaw Town children, including Julius, knew how the pipes ran through trap doors that could be pulled aside under the sinks for plumbing work. Every Victoria manager knew how the kids could knock the doors out, and pull them under the stage during movies.
The restroom at the west side of the stage was labeled "Women's" with a subdued light above it to help the cusomer make it here when the auditorium was darkened, and the one at the east side was labeled "Men's"
They became the most inconvenient restrooms ever for those trying to avoid nature's call until they were forced to walk at full holding capacity to the front of the Victoria's entire audience. The ushers were quick to spot the bladder-laden victims making their way down the aisles, shining their flashlights in the walkway to help them see. The more oafish ushers who tended not to last long at the Victoria might even let a stray light glance across the restroom-goer's straining face to the delight of 75 percent of the crowd.
Consider the case of Miss Vicki Waytze, who, at the peak of "Gone With the Wind," came to the point of wiggling on one foot while Priscilla Wombotta was using the facilities. She drew more audience applause and thrown popcorn than Scrlet O'Hara. Perhaps the crowd could confine the comedy to what they saw on the screen tonight.
Julius didn't think the movie looked quite proper, but Magnus said it was a great movie according to the ratings. Julius invited Magnus to come with his family, and Magnus said of course he would. He had planned to attend anyway.
Claudia and Kathy finally arrived.
"Magnus says this is a great movie," Julius told them.
"When did he see it?" asked Kathy. "I thought this was its first showing in town."
"Oh, it is. He's just read the ratings. As a matter of fact I asked him to join us tonight."
"That's fine, Julius," Claudia said, "I believe we all will find this a special event. It's good that you'll have a friend from work there."
"Harris and Marvin said they were coming too," said Kathy. "Maybe Harris could sit next to me, and Magnus could sit between the two of them."
They've been with us too many times," said Julius. "I'd like to make this just a family event. Just having Magnus won't matter much."
"I was just trying to keep it family too, Father," said Kathy.
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh nothing. It's OK if Magnus comes. He's fun. He can be charming."
"Good, good, I'm glad you like Magnus."
"Don't be oblivious, Julius," said Claudia. "Everything doesn't have to be the way it seems to you."
"A friend of yours is a friend of the family, Dad, just like a friend of mine is a friend of the family too, right?" asked Kathy.
Julius tried to smile and scowl at the same time, not knowing how he ought to take these remarks, until Claudia waved her hand. "Come on you two, or we'll miss the previews and cartoon."
Magnus waited for them, holding boxes of popcorn, sitting on a lounge couch across the hall from the projection room stairs.
Julius almost led the group accross the theater to go up the opposite aisle, but then he spotted Harris and Marvin shuffling up the stairs there, big arms waving at their sides. Harris still wore the motorcycle coat, but at least Marvin was dressed in some sort of white jacket or sports coat. Sports coat, imagine that on one of those guys. They were exchanging greetings with nearly everyone around them. What made people like them popular?
"Magnus, you go on in the seats here. We'll have the ladies sit between us," Julius smiled benevolently. "Kathy, you next."
"Ah, Daddy," she hissed Why don't you and Mother go in next. I'm feeling like I may need to use the restroom not very far into the show."
"We'll get up for you if we need to, Dear. Let's not have a little scene ovr seating."
Magnus handed down popcorn for everybody. Now that was a good sign.
Marilyn Monroe was quite the buxom woman in all the correct ways. It was easy to see why Lemmon and Curtis became taken with her, Julius decided. He wondered if Magnus noticed the similarities between his daughter and the actress, and then realized it could only go to the young man's favor that of course he noticed. His reserve was admirable, hardly like that of six-hands Harris.
They were a long way into the movie, at the part on Brown's yacht, when Kathy got up to excuse herself. An usher with stringy black hair and a youthful pale face came running with his flashlight to escort her down the aisle.
Halfway down the steps, somebody toward the back of the theater said just loudly enough everybody tohear, "Shake it there, Marilyn on the bathroom walk."
Tjhen somebody whistled. A couple of other people clapped their hands. The usher looked as though he might be leering.
Then at the bottom of the stairs Kathy, his Kathy Berton, bent over slightly with both hands to her mouth, then etended them to blow a Marilyn-type kiss to the entire crowd.
"Whoop," someonw called from the eighth row, and there was clapping and stomping of both feet from the balcony. Julius started to get up.
"Sit down, Julius," said Claudia. "Kathy's just having fun. Everybody knows she looks like Marilyn Monroe. It can't be helped. Did you think she didn't know it? Now don't embarrass us."
"Me, embarrass us?" Julius whispered back at her. "How could I embarrass us more than she did?"
Looking down the aisle, he wondered what young Magnus mut think, but the young man just looked straight ahead at the screen. Yes, his reserve was admirable. It showed what years of pharmaceutical training could do. Then looking beyond Magnus, he sawy Harris and Marving moving down the stairs.
They were nearly to the men's toilet while Kathy was giving a last wave to the crowd out the door of the women's.
Julius tried to begin rising again, but his wife pulled him down."Where are you tring to go?"
"Harris and Marvin are just about down the aisle."
"They are down, and they've gone into the restroom. So what? Now be quiet so I can enjoy the show." Then seemingly as an afterthought, Claudia whispered to him, "Julius, I don't want you to be a problem anymore tonight."
The movie went on and on without Kathy making an appearance. Harris came back out in his black coat, and headed immediately up the stairs so quickly the usher with the flashlight couldn't catch up to assist him. Then he came back down carrying a white coat.
Julius leaned over to Claudia. "Where is Kathy? What could she be doing in there this long?"
"Will you please just be quiet, and watch the show, Julius? You know women may have special needs. Don't create a scene just because you might not like how things are going."
How things are going? Did he say anything about how things are going? No, he didn't say that. Boy, women were touchy. A guy couldn't have a plan for his daughter's future, or keep the bums away from her without his wife telling him just to be quiet, and watch a movie about a despoiled look-alike version of that same daughter on the screen.
Thelma Fitzater went down to the restoom right at the end of the movie where Lemmon is riding away with Brown--disgusting ending thought Julius, but here, what was this? Thelma had opened the restroom door, and just walked right in. Why didn't Kathy have the door still bolted?
Julius shook himself loose as Claudia tried to hold him back by his jacket. It seemed he was clear down the staircase in a few short leaps to jerk at the restroom door until Thelma's squeal stopped him. "Hey, old man, that's persistence," clapped a bum from up in the seats as the music for closing credits played.
The kick-out trap doors for the plumbing pipes. That's how it had to happen. His own Kathy was giving him the slip to go back out under the stage with that Harris. Would his Kathy go so far as to elope? She might, yes, she might.
Claudia and Magnus arrived at his side a moment later, just about the same time as Marvin McKelomb was walking up dressed in the white sport coat with a pink carnation on it.
"Why are you wearing that coat?" Julius whispered at Marvin, pointing his finger at him, not knowing quite what else to say.
"Well, I guess it's because it's chilly out, Mr. Berton," the younger man answered, rolling his eyes as if at the obvious." Then he grinned, extending his cocked arm,"Mrs. Berton?"
Julius watched, dumbfounded at the front of the theater as the lights came on, and Marvin escorted Claudia to a front-row seat. The audience wasn't moving. The movie music was followed by a long organ cord that moved into a familiar tune. Julius' long-time friend, the attorney, O.B. Goodfellow had his face close to his own saying, "Congratulations, Julius, I advise you just go along with it."
Another arm was taking his from the other side, and he turned to see his own Kathy in a bridal veil with her friend, Thelma Fitzwater behind her also dressed in a white gown.
Kathy gently pulled him toward the front where the pastor stood. He realized the tune had been, "Here Comes the Bride."
"Who gives this woman?" asked the pastor.
"She really did it," said Julius.
"I'll take that as a 'Her mother and I,'" said the pastor as O.B. Goodfellow took Julius' arm to lead him to his seat by his wife.
"If you were just a kinder man this may not have had to happen this way," whispered Claudia in his ear. "Now,let's just enjoy the rest of it."
Enjoy it, how could he enjoy it? Fifteen minutes after the ceremony, after being guided out the doors to the theater lobby with the rest of the family for a reception line, he could scarcely remember the events of the evening he was so stunned.
He started recovering, flushing a bright mottled red, after he saw Magnus take Harris's hand to say, "Best wishes, Harris. Remember, I'm looking forward to your return to partner in the pharmacy after school. I've always enjoyed working with your new father-in-law,right, sir?"
It wasn't a moment later that Harris took Julius by the hand to say, "Sir, I hope we can get to know each other better really soon. I promise I'll always take care of Kathy."
Julius was surprised not only by the apparent depth of the young man's feeling, but by the way he looked into his eyes with such intelligent looking blue-green turquoise eyes. Funny, he hadn't ever looked into his eyes before.
Julius was hot, very hot as he stood letting the breeze cool him in front of the Victoria. It took a year for him to begin to know his family better, but they were patient, and after talks with his parson and his friend, O.B. Goodfellow, he became more forgiving.
It took more years for him to appreciate the folly of it all. Even though some might like it hot, Julius Berton wasn't one of them.
Neither was O.B. Goodfellow. As his secretary put on her coat to leave, he stepped out thumping the front cover of a western novel. "You know, it's been a tough day. I think I'll just stick around for a little while longer to read my book.
"That's a good idea, O.B. It might relax you before you go home."
"Do you know Julius Berton?"
"No, sir, but I've seen him around.
"Well, his was the best case I never handled. I may get a cup of coffee down at the drugstore before I go home. That Kathy can brew a mean pot of coffee."
"Yes, sir, and you know, she's really pretty for a lady that's getting older."
"Yes, I've noticed that."
Site: Jerry W. Engler
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"Some like it hot, but not Julius"
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|Reviewed by Regina Pounds
|Wonderful, vivid story, Jerry. The way you show just how bewildered and overwhelmed Julius is makes him sympathetic. The happy end for him may be long in coming, but one can 'see it.'
|Reviewed by Jean Pike
|I really enjoyed this story, Jerry. A delightful blend of humor and nostalgia. I loved the way you characterized the father and his struggle to let go of his daughter; the way his life paralleled that of the old theater. Wonderful!